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John Hughes 5-Movie Collection (Planes Trains / Ferris Bueller / She\'s Having a Baby / Pretty in Pink / Some Kind of Wonderful)
The newly released John Hughes 5-Movie Collection from Paramount highlights a two-year run from the legendary comedy writer-director that might be reasonably considered his most influential.
Three of the discs in the set have already been released -- which is good news (the new 4K transfer of Pretty in Pink from last year) and less-than-good news (the decidedly NOT 4K transfers of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off from roughly a decade ago). One of the two new discs, She's Having a Baby, is fairly bare bones, which isn't surprising considering it will probably only appeal to the completist. The other new disc, however, is a solid showing for the underrated Some Kind of Wonderful.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Movie: Video: Audio: Extras:
Strangely, this is only my second viewing of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Considering its status as a Thanksgiving classic that is constantly rerun on TV, I admit that this seems impossible. Nonetheless, I can tell you from my fairly fresh point-of-view that the flick has stuck around for good reason. It doesn't just slide by on the name recognition of stars Steve Martin and John Candy or nostalgia for the '80s. This is truly a great buddy road comedy that adroitly taps into its stars' abilities, creating an irresistible treat. Martin's character is a sharp-dressed ad exec intent to travel from New York to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving with his wife and kids. Candy's character is the well-meaning, schlubby traveling salesman who keeps crossing Martin's path and getting in the way. The ordeal stretches out over a few days and many miles, with writer-director Hughes throwing all sorts of gags -- broad, smart, surreal, and slapsticky -- at his leads, seemingly just to see how they'll react. The film never diminishes the humanity of those characters, though, which is why it's easy to get a lump in your throat during the sentimental ending.
Image-wise, the film's AVC-encoded 1080p 1.85:1 presentation is a bit of letdown. While it's stable and looks relatively better than a DVD, there has been some DNR or other filtering done to the image that gives it a slightly uncanny, sorta muddy overall look. While a flick this good deserves a visual upgrade, it's not a total dealbreaker. The audio, on the other hand, is quite impressive, with the main English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix really serving up the musical cues and Ira Newborn score that really define the vibe of this film. Dialogue is well-supported and effects are given some play throughout the surround soundstage. Spanish Dolby 2.0 mono (224 kbps) and Portuguese Dolby 2.0 mono (224 kbps) audio options are also available. Subtitle options: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese.
(16:38) - A well-made talking heads retrospective that includes a lot of a vintage press conference with John Hughes, John Candy, and Steve Martin.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Movie: Video: Audio: Extras:
When I was in high school, The Breakfast Club was my favorite John Hughes teen movie. It captured the kind of angst I was feeling, even though I don't think I actually had much in common with any of the characters. Since high school, though, Ferris Bueller's Day Off has bested it. The misadventures of Ferris (Matthew Broderick), his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara), and their glum chum Cameron (Alan Ruck) as they cut class, illicitly borrow Cameron's dad's Ferrari, and go for a tourist-y day out in Chicago are just too much fun. Ferris, of course, is essentially a high school superhero, able to do anything he wants and never get caught. Ferris's sister Jeannie (Jennifer Grey) and school principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) separately hope to make Ferris pay for his tomfoolery, but wind up frequently hoist by their own petards. Hughes gives his characters a little bit of dimension -- especially Cameron -- but mostly viewers will remember the quotable dialogue and the broad setpieces. This is kind of Hughes's A Hard Day's Night, but with just the one big production number.
On the technical side: The video is an AVC-encoded 1080p 2.35:1 presentation that underwhelms. The master is clearly a bit old, and might have been subjected to some filtering to spruce it up. If so, the filtering didn't really do the trick. Thankfully, the image quality isn't as distracting as the next film in the set. The main audio mix is English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround, which is far more satisfying. The music and effects are well-supported and nicely distributed among the channels. Dialogue is clear and problem-free. Other audio options: French Dolby 2.0 stereo (224 kbps) and Spanish Dolby 2.0 mono (224 kbps). Subtitle options: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Sadly, the John Hughes commentary from the very first Ferris Bueller DVD is still M.I.A.
- Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (27:45) - A 2005 featurette that mixes new interviews with various cast members and vintage 1986 EPK interviews with John Hughes and some other folks.
- The Making of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (15:29) - Another 2005 featurette made from vintage B-roll and newer interviews. This one features various anecdotes behind a handful of memorable sequences from the film.
- Who Is Ferris Bueller? (9:12) - This one focuses on both the character as conceived by John Hughes and as realized by Matthew Broderick.
- The World According to Ben Stein (10:51) - A featurette on the "Bueller... Bueller..." teacher that represents a brief moment post-Win Ben Stein's Money and before Stein's anti-Evolution agit-doc Expelled where the pop culture mainstream clearly loved Stein.
- Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes (10:16) - EPK outtakes that feature Broderick awkwardly attempting to interview his costars, as well as an unused restaurant scene.
- Class Album - A photo gallery.
She's Having a Baby
Movie: Video: Audio: Extras:
The post-collegiate dramedy She's Having a Baby seems on paper like it should be John Hughes's most personal film. The main character, Jake Briggs (Kevin Bacon), marries young, becomes an ad man in Chicago, and nurses a desire to be a novelist. This is Hughes's backstory. Sometimes, Kevin Bacon is even shown wearing glasses whose round frames are blatantly modeled on Hughes's. But, in execution, this film is utterly generic. It's another story about a man-child who fights maturity, kicking and screaming. It's chock full of imaginary vignettes of Jake's fears and fantasies. Some of the surreal moments inspire a laugh or two, but that's about it. Hughes's usually keen observations of human foibles are shallow and rote here, and he can't even seem to create a two-dimensional character for Elizabeth McGovern as the titular "She." The actual act of having a baby doesn't even come until the film's final quarter, and Hughes goes solemn and sentimental as a Hail Mary play. I actually got choked up by this climactic sequence but the song Kate Bush debuted in the film, "This Woman's Work," probably deserves the credit for that.
The indifferent execution carries over to the technical side too. The AVC-encoded 1080p 1.78:1 presentation does not even look like an upgrade from SD video. Certain shots are downright blurry and I'd have a hard time picking out a shot that really wows in the depth and clarity departments. The main English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround audio mix is fine, with no glaring flaws. But it doesn't really have much oomph or inventiveness in the mix. Other audio options: French Dolby 2.0 mono (224kbps) and German Dolby 2.0 mono (224kbps). Subtitle options: English, English SDH, German, and French.
(HD upscale, 24:10) - From 1987. An off-camera Bacon asks Hughes to discuss his three projects at the time: She's Having a Baby, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Some Kind of Wonderful. Oddly, the film Bacon has nothing to do with in that trio -- Some Kind of Wonderful -- is discussed the most. Even so, I enjoyed this way more than the feature.
Pretty in Pink
Movie: Video: Audio: Extras:
Pretty in Pink is a romantic teen potboiler that has oddly lingered on as a classic of the genre. It's probably because writer-producer John Hughes and director Howard Deutch put a little more idiosyncrasy and heart than expected into their story of a lower class girl, Andie (Molly Ringwald), who catches the fancy of a rich preppie boy, Blane (Andrew McCarthy), much to the chagrin of Andie's longtime friend and unrequited lover Duckie (Jon Cryer). Most folks who know already know that the original ending had Andie realizing she had someone who loved her right there and going to prom with Duckie. Test audiences rebelled, so an easily detected reshot fairytale ending was fashioned in which Andie got her rich boy. The problem, of course, is that neither suitor is all that great: Duckie's codependence makes him more annoying than intended, and Blane's scripted fickleness and blandness fights with Andrew McCarthy's natural on-screen charm. As my colleague Tyler Foster pointed out in his review of this disc last year, Duckie oddly ends up with the most interesting character arc because he seems to see the error of his ways and actually behaves like a good friend who loves Andie in the end. To be frank, the '80s tunes, the zippy dialogue, the lip-syncing to Otis Redding, and the colorful supporting characters (played by Harry Dean Stanton, Annie Potts, and James Spader, among others) are what warrant revisiting Pretty in Pink again and again.
Technically, this is the same disc as last year's Paramount Presents release, just without the nifty packaging and official spine number. The AVC-encoded 1080p 1.85:1 presentation is sourced from a new 4K master that makes this easily the most vivid, crisp, and authentic-looking transfer in the collection. The cinematography merges low-key grittiness with high-key "comedy" lighting, but the look still wows. The main English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track offers a great full-range sound; mostly, it focuses on the dialogue up front, but the music cues blast through with great detail and nuance. Other language options: German Dolby 2.0 stereo (224kbps), French Dolby 2.0 mono (224kbps), and Japanese Dolby 2.0 stereo (224kbps). Subtitles options: English, English SDH, German, French, and Japanese.
All of these include the same subtitle options as the main film. Sadly, many of the bonuses included on the "Everything's Duckie" DVD edition have not crossed over to Blu-ray.
- Filmmaker Focus: Pretty in Pink (HD, 7:38) - A new interview with director Howard Deutch, where he talks about meeting John Hughes, his relationship with the cast, and reconceiving and reshooting the ending.
- The Lost Dance: The Original Ending (12:15) - Not the actual footage, but a DVD featurette with the director and crew discussing the difference between the endings and whether the change was "right."
- Isolated Music Score Track - presented in Dolby 2.0 stereo (224kbps). This consists of score cues, with none of the needle drops.
Some Kind of Wonderful
Movie: Video: Audio: Extras:
Reteaming John Hughes and director Howard Deutch, Some Kind of Wonderful has a reputation as a gender-flipped Pretty in Pink where Hughes gets to have his original ending. Whether that was his intent or not, Some Kind of Wonderful benefits from the extra thinking about the teenage love triangle dynamic. This is more nuanced, less sugar-coated, less cut-and-dry, but still with a bit of fairytale energy. Eric Stoltz is Keith (Rolling Stones reference #1), a working-class high school kid who works as a mechanic and creates art in his off-hours. Mary Stuart Masterson is his androgynous best friend and full-time drummer Watts (Rolling Stones reference #2). Watts harbors secret feelings for Keith, which isn't a problem until Keith becomes fixated on the upwardly mobile Lea Thompson as Miss Amanda Jones (and there's the Rolling Stones trifecta). Amanda is also from a working-class family, but she hangs out with the rich kids and dates insufferable yuppie prick Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer). Rather than focusing on the prom, Some Kind of Wonderful culminates in a momentous first date between Keith and Amanda, agreed to moments after Amanda breaks up with the yuppie prick. Keith senses Amanda's ambivalence about him, but decides to prove it to everyone, including himself, that he is worthy of this kind of love no matter the grease under his nails. In this context, the passive-aggressive stance taken by Watts somehow is more sympathetic than Duckie's self-involved showboating. Like Pretty in Pink, this film is filled with great ensemble performances, this time by the likes of John Ashton, Molly Hagan, Maddie Corman, Candace Cameron, Scott Coffey, and especially Elias Koteas as a skinhead who makes a satisfying face turn. This film may have wound up as a kind of B-side to the hit Pretty in Pink, but those songs are sometimes the better ones really.
Let's turn to the technical side. The AVC-encoded 1080p 1.78:1 presentation looks like it's sourced from older master, but not one nearly as musty and dusty as the one used for She's Having a Baby. Colors are vibrant and saturated. There's a fair bit of '80s diffusion used throughout, but detail and depth are generally strong. Sometimes the shadows can look a little milky, but, for the most part, there is satisfying nuance even in the higher-contrast shots. The main English TrueHD 5.1 surround mix is similar to Pretty in Pink's, with much of the track focused up front and the source music cues benefitting the most from the lossless surround mix. Other audio options: French Dolby mono and German Dolby mono. Subtitle options: English, English SDH, French, and German.
The first two bonuses are new for the Blu-ray, and the others are culled from the 2006 Special Edition DVD. All the bonuses, including the commentary, feature optional English, German, or French subtitles.
- Audio Commentary by director Howard Deutch and Lea Thompson - Deutch and Thompson, who are married now, reminisce charmingly over the film. There are plenty of gaps where they watch a dialogue exchange silently and then react to it. But overall, they find a good rhythm, offering enough informative and entertaining comments to make this a worthwhile listen. Favorite moment: the two of them argue over whether a major party scene was partially reshot or not.
- Back to Wonderful: A Conversation with Howard Deutch (HD, 6:46) - This interview appears to be taken from the same session as the Pretty in Pink "Filmmaker Focus" interview. He talks about getting kicked off the project during casting but coming back right before shooting. He also discusses how he tried to make this love triangle story more intriguing to stand apart from Pretty in Pink.
- The Making of Some Kind of Wonderful (7:46) - Deutch and the three actors talk about the making of the film in a seemingly frank way, discussing, for example, that Eric Stoltz and Deutch fought throughout the production.
- Meet the Cast of Some Kind of Wonderful (13:27) - The cast and filmmakers talk about the film's whole ensemble, both in vintage 1987 interviews and looking back in 2006.
- John Hughes Time Capsule (10:50) - The same John Hughes / Kevin Bacon interview from the She's Having a Baby disc, edited differently and including some slightly different Q & A's.
The set also comes with Digital HD codes for all 5 films.
If you already own the three previously-released flicks in this set (and don't absolutely need those Digital HD codes), you can probably wait for the Some Kind of Wonderful steelbook that has been announced and call it a day. But if you're a fan of American comedies who somehow doesn't own any of these movies, picking up this budget-priced set should be a no-brainer. You're getting four memorable flicks and a semi-interesting failure. Recommended.
Justin Remer is a filmmaker, oddball musician, and frequent wearer of beards. His new single, Don\'t Depend on Me, is now available to stream or download on Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, Apple, and wherever else fine music is enjoyed.